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Owning your care this winter – Dr Martin McShane

NHS England’s National Medical Director for Long Term Conditions outlines the public’s role in helping the NHS get through the pressures of this winter:

Someone once suggested to me that talent imitates but genius steals – an antidote to the ‘not invented here’ syndrome.

That is why I try and constantly learn about what is happening elsewhere: if someone has had a good idea that works then why not nick it?

I heard a similar example of this is a phrase at the Nuka Healthcare system use. They described the people and families who register with them as ‘customer-owners’. I immediately felt this resonated with the NHS Constitution which says, “The NHS belongs to all of us”. We are all both customers AND owners, and being an owner means looking after what you own and making best use of what you have.

People with persistent health problems, long term conditions, are the biggest customers of the NHS, which implies they own a large share of the NHS. Professionals and individuals with long term conditions need to work together to use that ownership to best effect.

Over the winter period this is of critical importance. We need to work collectively to sustain the NHS through winter and beyond.

How can that be done? Well, as customers, people with long term conditions, can seek to understand as much about their condition or conditions as possible. Sometimes that means not being afraid to ask professionals to fulfil their side of the bargain by making sure they are given the information they need to own their care. Asking three questions can help:

  1. What are my options?
  2. What are the benefits and possible risks?
  3. How likely are these risks and benefits?

Making sure that professionals have access to the information they need about a patient’s preferences and care is now something they can own and help with. Over 95% of GP practices provide basic information on the Summary Care Record. With a patient’s permission they can switch on access to their care plan and a greater depth of information that only other NHS staff can access.

Lots of people assume we do that already; we don’t. It is patient information and we need to ask them to let us do it but they can also prompt their GP to do it for them – after all, they own it.

Self-care is about people owning the need to take responsibility for their care as much as possible, from coughs, colds and flu as well as long term conditions.

This is important as, on average, someone with a long term condition might see a professional for about five hours a year. Owning a long term condition is not something we choose to do but we can choose to think about how much we put into making sure it has as little impact as possible on our lives.

That is why I strongly support self-care and the advice provided by people with lived experience on how to be more than a customer. Self-care week (16 – 22 November) is a great opportunity to find out more about how as a customer-owner we can all make sure we get the best from the NHS and take the responsibilities we all have in the NHS Constitution seriously.

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